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ASU basketball: Kodi Justice bounces back in win over UCLA

He’s back.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Arizona State Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Tra Holder raced down the floor, powered to the basket, then stopped, gathered his momentum and banked in a game-winning bucket to seal Arizona State’s 82-80 win over USC on Thursday night. The clock had ticked past 11 p.m.

About an hour later, Kodi Justice took to the floor for a midnight shoot around.

“It’s what I needed to do, but this time the cameras caught me.” Justice said.

He had shot 0-for-6 from 3-point land, scoring just five points for the second consecutive game. It was his worst shooting game beyond the arc all season.

“To get over the hump. To get over the notch. We have to put in the extra work.” Justice said. “You’ll see before practice, after practice, late night all of us working, it’s not just me. So to be a part of a team like this, they’re hungry to be better and they’re striving to be better.

“We’re competitive. We’re competitive people. We want to be great.”

In Arizona State’s 88-79 win over UCLA, Justice flipped the script. He scored 17 points, shooting a clean 7-for-11 overall and 2-of-4 from deep.

On a night where four ASU guards combined for 69 of ASU’s 88 points, Holder, a Wooden Award nominee said postgame: “It all started with Kodi.”

Justice swiftly posted 10 points and two assists less than 7:30 into the game, clinching double figures on a lay-in that brought ASU down by one, 18-17 with 12:39 in the first half.

He didn’t score until two minutes into the second half, but by then, the Sun Devils led 45-34. His team heated up for him.

“It was a great game. My teammates played a great game, especially Kodi who kept encouraging me to keep shooting the ball,” Holder said.

The win marked the first in-conference sweep in the Bobby Hurley era. It was also Justice’s first while playing. The Mesa, Arizona native was injured for the 14 final games of the 2014-15 season, missing sweeps over the L.A. schools and against teams from the Bay Area.

In each of those 2015 sweeps, ASU kept its opponent to 70 points or less. The red-hot UCLA Bruins had won three in a row coming into Tempe, scoring 80 or more in each win. On Saturday, didn’t let that happen.

“Some of the players on their team were like ‘damn, your guy’s defense.’ In the non-conference people really complimented us for our defense. We’re getting back to that and that’s what’s transitioned into getting a victory.”

The Sun Devils stole the ball nine times compared to UCLA’s two, beat the Bruins on the boards and forced 12 UCLA turnovers, opposed to ASU’s seven.

On the offensive end, ASU converted on 25 of its 28 free throws, as Shannon Evans and Holder tallied 15 of them.

The two alone shot 12-for-36, but combined for 45 points. Throw Justice in the mix and the senior trio had 62.

“You need that,” head coach Bobby Hurley said. “As the year progresses, and as you get onto postseason, you want to have guards that can be elite, can make great decisions, can be playmakers. And that’s what puts you in a position to contend for championships.”